Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1
Genre: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Published by Henry Holt & Co (6.5.2012)
eARC, 358 pages
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
The beginning was very discouraging for me. There were so many terms and made up words thrown around without explanation that I very nearly gave up on it because I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I really think the world should have been set up much more clearly. Even after finishing it, I don’t understand the makeup of the Grisha. Corporalnik, Corporalki, Materialnik, Etherealki…I have absolutely NO idea what the difference between them is. Or what they mean. Those words were used frequently in connection to the Grisha, but they were never explained. The only one that was explained was the oprichniki; the Darkling’s personal guard.
There were also a lot of Russian terms that I was left to figure out what they were from the context: kvas (some kind of drink), tsifil, lubok, kutya, tsaritsa, blini, sarafan. A couple of those I figured out after looking them up, but I don’t want to have to stop to look up words while I’m reading. It only takes a few words to insert a brief description of something, and that would have vastly improved my enjoyment (and understanding) of the book. Then there were the places. More crazy names thrown around, without any description whatsoever. Kribirsk, Os Kervo, Tsibeya, Keramzin (her home, I finally figured out), Os Alta (home of the Grisha), Ravka (the country?). And the other people of the country other than the Grisha: Fjerdans, the Shu Han, the Kerch – no background. I have no idea who they were or what they were like.
And then there was the page where Odinakovost (‘thisness’) and Etovost (‘thatness’) were attempted to be explained. I say attempted because I don’t think even Leigh knew what the hell she was talking about. Even Alina said her head was swimming trying to figure it out. Yeah, mine too. This book made my brain hurt a lot. I’m all for high fantasy, as long as things make sense and are well put-together. But if I have to struggle to understand the world, and I spawn a migraine trying, it tends to ruin the reading experience for me.
What I liked? The originality. The idea of the Grisha and the Small Science was fascinating. I thought the ability to manipulate the elements was brilliant, and I liked how the different ones had different colors – but that I would have liked an explanation of that, too. I know embroidery colors on the sleeves: silver was for Squallers, red for the Inferni, blue for Tidemakers. But I didn’t understand the different colors of kefta (cloak, I think?), because it was only mentioned in passing a few times.
The Shadow Fold was pretty awesome, and so were the Volcra. I had a clear picture of them in my head.
I thought Alina’s power was cool, too, and the idea of amplifiers. I couldn’t really connect with her, though. Or Mal. And I felt nothing for the romance. I did like the Darkling, though. I became attached to him from the beginning, even though his motives and morals were questionable.
I didn’t like how Alina handled the end scene in the Fold. What about all the other people on the skiff? Oh, well. I’ll probably read the next book, just to see how it plays out. Hopefully it will be less confusing.
Favorite character: Probably Genya, she was spunky. She should have been the main character.
Overwhelming terms, too much confusion.